A carefully designed four-day week could be introduced in the UK immediately and be affordable for most firms with more than 50 workers, says a thinktank.
New Zealand is suggesting companies consider adopting a 4 day week, and Unilever NZ is trailing it. Back in 2019, Microsoft Japan introduced a 4-day week after demonstrating that the benefits went far beyond a long weekend. Now, it's being suggested for the UK.
A report by Autonomy - which is campaigning for a shorter working week without loss of pay - said the majority of 50,000 firms studied would be able to cope with the change through higher productivity or by raising prices. The thinktank said the government should investigate ways of rolling out a four-day week, starting with the public sector.
The status quo work week of Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. roughly dates back to the Industrial Revolution and the Ford assembly line in the early 1900s. “We’ve never really changed that,” says Prof. Trougakos at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, noting that an overhaul is overdue.
Although many companies are currently struggling, Autonomy said that even under its “worst-case” scenario, a four-day week would be affordable for most firms once the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic had passed. It accepted, however, that some firms in sectors where labour costs were high and profit margins thin would experience cashflow problems if changes were implemented too quickly.
Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: “For the large majority of firms, reducing working hours is an entirely realistic goal for the near future. By providing a hypothetical ‘stress test’, we can dispel any myths about the affordability of a four-day working week.
“Any policy push will have to be carefully designed, and different strategies would need to be deployed for different industries. However, what is remarkable is that if it happened overnight, with no planning, most firms would still remain profitable."
“The four-day week is picking up momentum across the world post Covid-19 and we’re calling on the government to begin investigating the best options for rolling it out.”
Chris Higgins, professor emeritus at Western University’s Ivey Business School, said a compressed four-day work week could be suitable for white-collar employees. “It’s perfect for white collar,” Prof. Higgins said. “Everybody will love it.” However, for blue-collar workers the idea is more problematic, he said.
Autonomy said a shorter working week would help boost the UK’s weak productivity and enhance wellbeing. Peter Dowd, the Labour MP for Bootle and former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “If the government is serious about levelling up this country then they should consider the four-day week as it represents one of the best opportunities for sharing work more equally across the economy. I’m in favour of the four-day week being introduced as all the evidence shows it would boost wellbeing, improve productivity and give British workers a much better work-life balance.”
Time For a 4 Day Week? In 2019, Microsoft Japan introduced a 4-day week after demonstrating that the benefits went far beyond a long weekend. The trial was part of Microsoft's "Work-Life Choice Challenge," a project that examined work-life balance and aimed to boost creativity and productivity by giving employees more flexible hours. More...